However, the Institute’s seminal regional project will be to develop an association of election officials in the MENA region. Election officials and administrators will participate in national, regional, international, and thematic associations which provide networks, information, and services in support of professional development and performance. The Institute will serve as the secretariat for the association. There are currently EMAs in the Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. Twelve of the regional associations met for the first time in Ottawa, Ontario in April 1999 under the banner of the Global Election Officers (GEO) Network. Elections Canada was the host of the conference. This event was followed by a second GEO Conference hosted by the Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE) in Mexico City in May of 2003 and a third was hosted by the ACEEEO in Siofok, Hungary in 2005. In addition, there are national associations such as the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors in the United States, and the Association of Returning Officers of Jamaica.
MENA remains the sole region where no such EMA has been established.
The emergence of the “Arab Spring” countries and the centrality of democracy and elections in these transitions clearly demonstrate the need for a regional approach to the professionalization of electoral administration. The establishment of such an association in the region represents a sustainable mechanism to foster human resource development in electoral administration. A sampling of the membership services and activities provided is shown below:
· Web sites with information and chat rooms;
· Certification or accreditation program;
· Conflict resolution seminars;
· University-based professional development programs;
· Training courses for poll workers;
· Resource Centers;
· Election observation missions;
· Consultation with parliaments and legislatures on election laws; and
· Election equipment exhibitions.
The association development effort will follow the template of other such associations established in the 1990s with two workshops: 1) exploratory; and 2) founding. The exploratory workshop provides a discussion forum for potential members to define the scope and vision for the association; charter drafting and other post-workshop assignments are made. With the completion of these tasks, the prospective members will re-convene in a founding workshop, adopt the charter and establish the association. The Institute could also foster an association of Jordanian election officials as well.